The DX7 - one of three instruments in a new library for Ableton Live. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Bernd Sieker.

Go full retrowave with a magical FM synth library for Ableton

FM is a conundrum. On one hand, it’s the ideal form of synthesis, capable of a rich range of sounds and transformations. On the other, it’s hard to actually get all that sound under control – the very thing that range would make you want to do. And accordingly, a lot of sound libraries have just skipped over FM altogether. Not our man Francis Preve and Symplesound. Here’s the concept: make FM fun and playable again. Make FM something where you want to start toying around and turning knobs, without fear that you’re going to get lost in a muddle …

Photo: Udo Siegfriedt / CTM Festival.

Listen to John Chowning tell how he invented FM synthesis

To this day, it’s a synthesis method capable of producing wonderfully otherworldly sounds. And now as its applications on cell phones and cheap PC audio fade into distant memory, FM synthesis is left as one of the great achievements of musical invention, full stop – let alone being a key milestone of 20th century technology. So perhaps it’s time to revisit its significance.


KORG volca FM is here – and does some unexpected tricks

KORG’s runaway-hit volca series has proven small can be fun. But the volca FM promises more power in a small package. The volca FM, teased in California in January and demoed in early prototype form, is now official. And part of why we’re eager to get our hands on one is that it’s more than just another little synth box. Okay, so it’s a 6-operator FM synth that’s fun to play with – that you probably got right away. But it’s also a way of loading vintage FM patches, and has powerful editing features. Let’s look and listen.


Hands on with KORG’s new volca FM

Surprise! In addition to the hit minilogue, KORG are unveiling a volca series that does FM synthesis. And KORG are even making a friendly nod to their Japanese rival with a DX7 color scheme. I got to play with the new volca FM, and – well, there’s a lot of cool things I can already share about it.


Hands-on Video of the Yamaha Reface Series

Extensive videos emerge to give you a hands-on look at Yamaha’s new electric piano / synth / organ keyboard line. They put some of the company’s favorite instruments at your fingertips in an uncommonly compact package. Our take:


Antiques Roadshow? Yamaha to Celebrate Its Synth Legacy with Vintage Gear

Hey – don’t forget Yamaha. For all the buzz about Roland and KORG (and American makers like Moog), the titan Japanese maker surely deserves its own enormous claim to synthesizer history. This is the company that made one the most influential polyphonic synths of all time (the CS-80), and introduced the world to FM synthesis (DX series) and physical modeling (VP series). You can still make DX and VP sounds that seem like they fell out of the future. And Yamaha are no newcomer, either. This year will mark the 40th anniversary since the firm first entered the synth market …


Get Christmas Bells Free for Ableton Live and Other Tools

There is so much bell action in this free download, there are bells combined with other bells. There are church bells, and there are Yamaha DX7 bells, synthesized through FM. It’s maximized Christmas soundware. Once you fire this up, it’s like an Egg Nog with a mulled cider inside and then a duck inside that. And, incredibly, it’s the 114th Ableton pack release from Brian Funk, aka electronic musician (and certified Live trainer) AfroDJMac. That’s 114 free downloads – far more than we could ever hope to cover. Because these are Ableton Live sound packs, you can actually open up …


A Few Good TouchOSC Layouts, from Waldorf to Traktor to Ableton, and a Brief Rant

TouchOSC makes an appearance as musicians hack control at our Handmade Music Open Lab in New York Saturday. Photo by Matos; used with permission. See his (not entirely safe for work) art portfolio. TouchOSC has become something of a standard on iOS for touch control, thanks to desktop editor apps for custom layouts and high-contrast, Lemur-style controls. Last Thursday was all about wired MIDI on iPad, so it seems only fair to show what people are doing with wireless and OSC. I’ve got a few good selections from my recent inbox.